Rapid strides in smartphone technology are set to herald the smartphone of the future.
Martin Cooper, a researcher at Motorola, invented the first cell phone in 1973. The device weighed slightly over one kilogram. In the 46 years since, mobile phones have undergone drastic development and are now mini-computers in their own right. In fact, certain high-end smartphones can essentially double as a personal computer, such is their computing power. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9, with its ‘Dex’ feature, is a prime example.
The technology that powers these devices is constantly evolving and improving. Every year brings with it a new wave of improvements, a new addition to the already impressive roster of capabilities that a smartphone possesses. The phones showcased a mere 5 years ago, the likes of the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S5, are akin to antiques when compared to the ones circulating in the market today, both in terms of raw processing power and the features they boast. This begs the question, what advancements will take place over the next five years or so?
The fifth generation (5G) of cellular technology will enhance the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. While Nepal is still in the initial phase of enjoying 4G technology, companies worldwide are ready to launch 5G-capable smartphones. OnePlus, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, among others will debut their 5G smartphones in 2019. Apple, however, is yet to announce the launch of the technology.
The technology promises markedly faster upload and download speeds. While 3G and 4G signals are often lost in crowded places, the 5G signal will be strong across all areas. The expected download speed of 5G technology is an impressive 1GBps. Existing smartphones are not capable of 5G as it requires a specific set of antennas in the smartphone.
A Truly Bezel-less Screen
Manufacturers have been doing their utmost to maximise the screen real estate in their smartphones. So far, the notch, pioneered by the Sharp Aquos S2 and brought into the mainstream by the iPhone X in 2017, has been the mode of choice for most manufacturers. The likes of the Oppo Find X, Vivo Nex S and Huawei Mi Mix 3 have worked around the notch using innovative sliding mechanisms to house the front and rear cameras. While their efforts are impressive, the structural fidelity of the mechanisms remains a concern in the minds of potential buyers.
Samsung is leading the charge in this field and is likely to launch an all-screen phone in the coming year, sans any sliding mechanism. They plan to do this using cutting-edge technology that allows them to house the front camera and the assortment of sensors underneath the display.
Foldable DisplaysSmartphone screens have been getting considerably larger, particularly in the last few years. Sustaining this expansion will soon become unfeasible. This is where foldable displays come in.
Foldable phones will be quite expensive compared to the flat screen smartphones circulating today. When the device is in the folded position, it will operate much like a regular smartphone and will be easy to fit in the pocket. When opened, the phone will resemble a tablet and will provide users with added screen real estate. Samsung has already shown a glimpse of their foldable smartphone and will launch the technology in 2019. Samsung’s foldable phones will have a 7.3-inch display, which can be folded inwards. When done so, the display will be 4.5-inch. Further, the smartphone will come equipped with 5G technology.
Huawei plans to launch a foldable phone before Samsung. The company is planning to include four cameras in the smartphone. Their iteration will be an 8-inch display when folded out. The Chinese smartphone giant may retail the phone at USD 2,000. Companies like LG, ZTE and others have also planned to launch foldable phones in the next year or so.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are the future, not only in the realm of smartphones but also in the world of technology in general. People have already been introduced to virtual assistants, self-driving cars, and humanoid robots like Sophia who in October 2017 became the first non-human to be granted citizenship of any country (Saudi Arabia).
One can see a glimpse into the future of AI in smartphones, courtesy of the powerful Kirin 980 chipset, on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. The phone’s camera can detect 1,500 scenes across 25 different categories and adjust the camera settings on its own. The prominent mobile chipmaker Qualcomm, which developed the deep learning AI accelerator chip, neural processing unit (NPU), and software platform called Zeroth in 2013 and started deploying it in its processors from 2015. In August of this year, Qualcomm announced that it will incorporate a dedicated NPU in the next iteration of its flagship processor, the Snapdragon 855, which is expected to feature in flagship handsets of 2019.
Google’s Pixel buds, paired with the Google assistant on a smartphone, can translate over 40 different spoken languages in real time. The significance of this technology is momentous. It allows people speaking two separate languages to talk to each other in real time. And while kinks are likely to crop up in the initial stages, the technology is nothing if not revolutionary.
Soon, we can expect these AI-backed technologies, along with a host of others, to be available in every smartphone.
Improvements in Mobile Gaming
While mobile gaming has always been a lucrative venture for developers, the unprecedented success and response garnered by Fortnite and PUBG are altering the landscape of mobile gaming. Fortnite alone generates USD 100 million per month in revenue. In a macro sense, mobile gaming, with revenues of USD 137.9 billion in 2018, accounts for over 50 percent of the global gaming market.
The obscene revenue generated by these games is one reason smartphones are increasingly catering to the mobile gaming market. The likes of the Razor Phone and the Asus ROG phone are tailor-made gaming phones. Their additional RAM and liquid cooling capabilities allow for a smooth, immersive gaming experience that was not possible until as recently as five years ago. These features are not limited to gaming phones, however, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and even the budget-friendly Pocophone ship with liquid cooling.
Advancement in this field is likely to arrive via the confluence of two of the points mentioned earlier, namely 5G and AI. The exponential increase in speed ushered in by 5G will also pave the way for game streaming. Further, increasing RAM sizes also have a major part to play.